Tag Archives: abortion

Liberal Academia in Donald Trump’s World

Within our privileged, cosseted circles we have gotten used to not only thinking that we are right, but that we are obviously so. By putting down “straight white men” with gleeful impunity, we gave poor white voters everything to apologize for, and nothing to believe in…. Nowhere has this benevolent but ultimately self-defeating myopia been more pronounced than on college campuses. We have dismissed our conservative peers in the classroom and taunted them on social media all while refusing to seriously engage their views. We have taken hard questions like affirmative action and abortion entirely off the

We have taken hard questions like affirmative action and abortion entirely off the table as if we had already provided an answer that should be immediately convincing to all. We have refused to consider a diversity of viewpoints on what constitutes “diversity.”… We have resolutely resisted paying more than lip service to socioeconomic inequality, rural alienation, and shifting patterns of exclusion while still purporting to speak on behalf of all marginalized people.  — Artemis Seaford in “The American Interest.”

Campus Libertarianism up, Civic Commitment Down

One of the most mentioned findings in the annual UCLA survey of college freshmen is a decided trend toward more “liberal” political attitudes. The survey shows increased support for same-sex marriage (supported by 71.3% of students, representing a 6.4% increase since 2009); for a pro-choice position on abortion; for the legalization of marijuana; and a corresponding decrease in opposition to provision of public services to undocumented immigrants. One finding that seems at odds with the overall trend is support for national health care, which dropped nearly a point since 2010, and fourteen points since 2007.

As Mark Bauerlein rightly pointed out, the trends point not in a “liberal” direction, but rather one that is “libertarian,” with a strong stress upon being “individualists.” If there is one overwhelming conclusion that one can draw from this survey, today’s students are individualistic. As an article about the survey expressed, their dominant perspective is to “Live and Let Live (and Study).”

The study is striking for what it does not ask: while it asks about hot-button social issues ranging from same-sex marriage to abortion, it does not ask students very much about their views on the economy–something one would think in our current climate would be interesting to know (the survey claims that its findings should inform how issues should be framed in the upcoming Presidential election. If that is the case, why the avoidance of economic questions?).

My own more modest campus “survey” suggests that students are trending libertarian (what many would call “conservative”) in the economic sphere as well. In one class I teach at Georgetown, I assign students a short paper asking them to provide a “political autobiography.” I have been struck over the past several years at the increasing number of students who self-describe as “socially liberal and economically conservative.” Their political lexicon is fairly impoverished (doubtless with thanks to our political media), but what they in fact disclose is a growing embrace of a consistent ethic of libertarianism. If we take their fading support of national health care as a proxy for their view about government interference in the economy, then we can indeed conclude that today’s students demonstrate an overall disposition toward “live and let live,” in both the social and economic realms.

Toleration, Diversity and Me

This conclusion, I would submit, ought to be a source of deep concern for those who care about the future of the American polity.

The overarching emphasis in the highest echelons of society–among our “elites,” and especially those working at our public schools and universities, as well as in the media–has been upon the need for “toleration” and “diversity.” The underlying belief informing this widespread view is that a high level of toleration toward others will result in a decrease in social conflict, the cessation of the mistreatment of minorities and outsiders, and a more peaceful and hence prosperous society. This message has clearly been internalized by today’s students: among the worst possible sins one can commit is to be a “Hater”–or, in their parlance, to “H8.” To render judgments or critical views toward lifestyle decisions is to engage in an unacceptable form of prejudice; people should be allowed to behave in whatever way they wish, so long as no one is physically harmed (though, it should be noted, self-destructive behaviors such as smoking are now severely frowned upon–only 2% of the surveyed population today acknowledges being a smoker). In what possible way could one be disquieted by this seemingly praiseworthy disposition of toleration and acceptance of diversity?

What the data also demonstrates is a keen and intense emphasis on the self. Today’s students simultaneously urge toleration toward others, but also expect to be left alone. Their overarching emphasis upon individual achievement–particularly in the area of career advancement–suggests that the message of “toleration” and “diversity” seamlessly co-exists with a self-centered focus on material success and personal lifestyle autonomy. At risk is a cultivated belief in civic membership, a sense of shared fate and even forms of self-sacrifice.

One telling aspect of the survey has, to my knowledge, received no attention: while 72.3% state that the “chief benefit of college is to increase one’s earning power,” only 2% of current college graduates are enrolled in an ROTC or other military program. While likely career choices are fragmented among many possible choices (with the largest numbers of responses clustering around the choices of engineer, physician and business, together totaling 28%), only 1.5% responded that they foresaw a military career; 0.9% intended to enter government or public policy; and .1% stated an intention to become a member of the clergy. As many respondents indicated a likely future of unemployment (1.5%) as those willing to serve in the military!

Increasing Earning Power

Contemporary liberals who significantly shape the views of today’s young (especially through the media – 50% of respondents indicated watching television more than 3 hours a day) believe that they are ushering in a future of toleration and “laissez-faire.” However, this attitude in fact buttresses the other overwhelming finding of the survey: that students today are “in it” for themselves. Their view of college is already determined before they enroll: the purpose of college is to increase their earning power. They are not in college to be liberally educated or to understand the “meaning of life.” They are not there to prepare for a life of responsible citizenship, parenthood and neighborliness. They are “capitalist tools,” people whose lives are dominated by professional ambition and bottom-line accounting.

Several disquieting questions should come to mind: what kinds of citizens will these people grow up to be? What kinds of parents and what kinds of neighbors? They will likely be willing to leave other people alone–but will they care about others? Will they love? Will they serve? Will they sacrifice? According Charles Murray in his recent book Coming Apart, it is the upper classes (which will be composed of the students in this survey) that have largely abandoned any idea of trusteeship and moral and civic responsibility toward those who have not won the meritocratic sweepstakes. The survey suggests that this divide will only deepen in coming years.

I fear that we are not ushering in a utopia of toleration and sensitivity, but one of indifference and self-absorption. Today’s young people have deeply absorbed the lessons that have been taught them by their elders. Do we truly think a civilization can persist when it teaches its young that the most important thing in life is indifference toward others and that the means to happiness is earning the most money?

Don’t Forget The Abortion Art Advisor

The one thing that can be said about Aliza Shvarts, the Yale art major who either did or did not give herself a series of artificial inseminations followed by abortions as part of her senior project, is that she is only about 22 years old. That might explain her apparent unawareness of the health hazards to herself and others inherent in repeatedly inducing miscarriages and using the blood from those miscarriages as a medium for an art installation – and also the incoherent but postmodernistically pretentious description of her proposed artwork, a plastic-sheeting cube displaying blood, Vaseline, and videotaped images of four supposed self-induced abortions: “[T]he piece exists only in its telling. This telling can take textual, visual, spatial, temporal and performative forms . copies of copies of which there is no original.” Come again? Shvarts may be crazy, silly, or in the grip of a late-stage feminist protest against all that is “patriarchal” and “heteronormative,” as she puts it, but she does have her youth and her obviously limited exposure to the real world outside Yale to excuse her.

The same can’t be said, however, for the other person involved in the creation of Shvarts’s project, which Yale has refused to install unless and until Schvarts admits (which she won’t) that it is a “creative fiction,” not a record of actual abortions, and that it doesn’t involve the use of human blood: That other person is Shvarts’s faculty adviser, Pia Lindman, a Finnish-born, New York-based self-styled performance artist who was hired as an art instructor at Yale in the fall of 2007 and has shepherded Shvarts’s project since the beginning of the school year. Born in 1965 and thus well into her 40s (old enough to know better, in short), Lindman had served as an art instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the 2004-2005 academic year. You would think that as an experienced faculty member at a prestigious Ivy League university such as Yale, Lindman would have had the presence of mind to realize that the seeming trivialization of abortion would offend even the most staunchly pro-choice, and that blood is usually classified as biohazardous waste matter. Not to mention the artistic judgment to question whether plastic sheeting and videotapes of a naked undergraduate flaunting her presumed miscarriages add up to a work of art.

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